How To Avoid Sticky Sentences

What’s a sticky sentence? It’s a sentence that contains over 45% glue words. And what are glue words? They’re the 200+ most common words in the English language. They include, but are not limited to:

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This is what a sentence with more than 45% glue words looks like.

  • ORIGINAL: Andy went over to the far end of the playground to see if there was a rake that he could use to tidy up all of the leaves that had fallen down in the night. 

This sentence contains 69% glue words that meander around its meaning. Here’s what a revision might look like.

  • REDRAFT: Mountains of leaves had fallen overnight, so Andy checked the playground for a rake.

Redrafted, the new sentence is only 42% glue words. And it’s much easier to read, wouldn’t you say? Unnecessary, fluffy wording is discarded for a much more succinct sentence.

Another example to consider:

  • ORIGINAL: At that moment, Karen walked out onto the middle of the stage with her violin and looked out across the room at the big crowd.

 This sentence contains 64% glue words that add no substance. Consider how a redraft tightens it.

  • REDRAFT: At that moment, Karen appeared on the stage with her violin, her eyes wide as she surveyed the growing crowd.

Redrafted, the new sentence is only 45% glue words. What do you think? Does it portray the same image more clearly?

Sticky sentences and your use of glue words are subjective. You determine whether your sentence is too sticky, not sticky enough, or just right. Statistics show published writing is generally made of a low average percentage of glue words.

If you have an editing tool that detects sticky sentences automatically, use it to check out all the instances where a sentence uses more than 60% glue words. Carefully reread each sentence and consider if it should be rewritten.

#DWTSmith #stickywords

sticky words

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22 thoughts on “How To Avoid Sticky Sentences

  1. Pingback: How To Avoid Sticky Sentences | Dragons Rule OK.

  2. I just critiqued a fellow writer over “wordiness,” which was due to the sticky word problem and plethora of prepositional phrases. “Karen appeared center stage, eyed the throng, and raised her violin.” I often find this pace-killing clog on re-reading my own work. Thanks for the helpful reminder. R.R. Brooks (Justi the Gifted, The Clown Forest Murders)

    Liked by 1 person

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